The Spark

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I generally attribute my love and appreciation for film to my decision to minor in film during my college years, since I got to experience a broad spectrum of different genres and styles from a multitude of different directors and eras.

Prior to that, I didn’t go to the movies all that much – at least, not as often as I would have liked. Now, I try to go once a week or every couple of weeks, and sometimes I go three times in one week, it all depends on what’s showing at the two theaters in my tiny backwoods town. I also get my friends saying things like, “Please tell me you didn’t go to see Pete’s Dragon by yourself,” like it’s a bad thing to take in a 10AM Saturday show solo to enjoy a nice Disney flick with some gummy bears.

But there is one film that I consider to be my “aha!” moment – the one that opened my eyes to how beautiful, compelling, and powerful cinema can be. And that film is Chris Nolan’s 2008 genre-breaking superhero flick, The Dark Knight.

MV5BMTMxNTMwODM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyMTk2Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_This was before the days of assigned (and reclining) movie theater seating, so my parents and my best friend and I showed up an hour early in order to ensure we got the best seats in the house. As a massive Batman fan, I was psyched to see the Caped Crusader take on the newest iteration of his arch-nemesis, the menacing Joker. As the film unfurled onscreen, I was totally blown away. The music, Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance, and the more grounded version of Gotham and Batman that Nolan crafted quickly became one of my all-time favorites, and I left the theater already yearning to see it again… which I did. Twice more, including a one hour trip to see it in IMAX with my dad. To this day, I have a huge movie poster of the Joker hanging over my bed; the first film poster I ever bought for myself. Now, many others have joined the ranks. I will still see any film that Christian Bale is in, regardless of ratings, will always spy a bit of Commissioner Gordon in any Gary Oldman performance, and will forever contend that The Dark Knight was robbed of a Best Picture nom at the Oscars.

As such, I consider The Dark Knight to be “the spark” that ignited my adoration of the cinema, the first film that made me think about how movies work and how all the parts come together to make one solid, functional piece of art capable of wowing and moving audiences. It opened the door to a whole new world, for me – and it didn’t even require a death-defying magic carpet ride to get there. Sure, I loved other movies before that, but The Dark Knight is special for me, and it always will be. Now, I’m one of those obnoxious people who love to talk about mise-en-scene and cinema verite and the male gaze and all that jazz, and I have a comic book movie to thank for that.

If any one else reading this has had a similar experience, what was your “spark?”

3 thoughts on “The Spark

  1. YOU GOT TO SEE THE DARK KNIGHT IN IMAX OMG. Apologies, there are no IMAX screens where I live so I get truly jealous when others get to see great films in a format I so deeply wish I could experience 😦

    I think TDK might’ve been my spark as well. Nolan’s film was among the first that made me hyper-aware of cinema, of performance and technique, specifically in the Joker-Batman interrogation scene. (Which to me goes down as one of the greatest scenes in film.) The camera-work is standard stuff, but I realized trying to be stylish with the camera is pointless when you’ve got great performances to fill the frame – my aha moment realizing content and form are one in the same. It would be a few years until I learned to express my adoration of movies, but TDK was the one that filled me with so much to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very lucky that my local theater has an IMAX screen. We often don’t get limited release or indie films where I live, though, so it’s kind of a trade off.

      I totally agree, that interrogation scene is such a powerful cinematic moment. I also remember the pencil scene as being particularly jarring and a huge “WOW” moment. I also might have screamed the first time I saw it… lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes, the pencil trick. Never before have I heard such nervous laughter in a theater. Where some of us found hilarity, others were terrified. I can’t recall a villain who elicited such shock and awe. I am TOTALLY re-watching TDK tonight.


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